Is the war against malware winnable?

December 6, 2008

Is the ongoing war against Internet malware and security threats winnable? The short answer is no, and that’s a worry. But the basic truth is that greed can lead to innovation, meaning the cyber criminals are forever one step ahead of the people being paid to contain or cure the problem.

Computers and the Internet have rapidly become a necessity to a lot of us, and not just for entertainment purposes. We do our banking online, pay bills, receive money, sell goods, buy goods, and generally do everything we once did offline on the Internet. But that comes with obvious dangers, and the new breed of criminals are exploiting those to become super wealthy.

Malware, or malicious software, can take many forms, but the outcome is usually the same: a computer system becoming unsecured, allowing the creators of the malware to nab personal details, including banking and credit card passwords.

Nowhere is really safe on the Internet. Your email inbox can contain links that once clicked turn your PC into a virtual cash machine for the astute criminal. Web sites of all kinds can inadvertently carry links to malware, while even social networks such as MySpace and Facebook are now being targeted by cyber-criminals.

The good guys are trying to prevent criminals from exploiting our computers, but as detailed in The New York Times, they face an uphill battle from an increasingly inventive enemy. It’s in the criminals interests to stay one step ahead of those on the other side of the fence, so they pile resources into coming up with increasingly sophisticated methods of stealing personal data, knowing the resulting dividends will make it more than worthwhile.

Malware is massively on the increase, and we seem almost powerless to stop it. Sure, there are some basic safeguards we can and all should be putting in place. A reliable firewall, up to date anti-virus and anti-malware software are all musts, but these can only prevent an attack from a program they are aware of, meaning botnets are always one step ahead.

The obvious effects of this are people losing money and a feeling of security as they venture online. But there could be bigger implications if the rise in malware frequency continues at its current rate. If enough people get scared away from using their computers for anything more useful than looking at porn, the whole Internet, and the various industries that have built up around it, could come crashing down around our ears.

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2 Responses to “Is the war against malware winnable?”

  1. John Pospisil:

    >But the basic truth is that greed can lead to innovation

    This only doesn’t apply malware – subprime mortgage derivitives anyone?

  2. Ken:

    That would explain all the malware on Linux and OSX. I’ll be back later to read the security through obscurity comment.

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